ILO says forced labour generates annual profits of US$13.10 billion in Africa

Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion globally in illegal profits per year, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization. The estimated amount for illegal profits from the use of forced labour in Africa is US$13.10 billion per year.

News | 20 May 2014
GENEVA/ADDIS ABABA (ILO News) – Forced labour in the private economy generates $ 150 billion in illegal profits per year, about three times more than previously estimated, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery to a new level,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

The ILO report,Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, said two thirds of the estimated total of $150 billion, or $99 billion, came from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion resulted from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.

In Africa, the estimated amount for total illegal profits obtained from the use of forced labour is US$13.10 billion per year.

According to these estimates for the region, the annual profits from forced sexual exploitation US$8.9 billion per year while the average annual profits of forced domestic work are US$300 million per year.

The African region accounts the second highest number of forced labourers at 3.7 million (18 per cent) and the estimated number of victims by type of forced labour includes forced sexual exploitation (800,000), forced labour exploitation (2,500,000) and state-imposed forced labour (400,000).

Annual profit per victim is highest in the Developed Economies (US$34,800 per victim), followed by countries in the Middle East (US$15,000 per victim), and lowest in the Asia-Pacific region (US$5,000 per victim) and in Africa (US$3,900 per victim).

The prevalence rate (number of victims per thousand inhabitants) is highest in the CSEE and Africa regions at 4.2 and 4.0, respectively.

Profits from forced labour

People in forced labour are often caught in a vicious cycle that condemns them to endless poverty.

In Africa, the number of victims of labour exploitation in the private economy is: Agriculture, including forestry and fishing: 1,130,000; Construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities: 840,000; and Domestic work: 570,000.

The traditional forms of “vestiges of slavery” are still prevalent in some countries, leading to situations where whole families (adults and children, men and women) are forced to work the fields of landowners in exchange for food and housing.

The report highlights income shocks and poverty as the main economic factors that push individuals into forced labour. Other factors contributing to risk and vulnerability include lack of education, illiteracy, gender and migration.

What needs to be done?

Beate Andrees, Head of the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, calls for:
  • Bolstering social protection floors to prevent poor households from abusive lending or indenture in the event of sudden income shocks;
  • Investing in education and skills training to fortify job opportunities for vulnerable workers;
  • Promoting a rights-based approach to migration to prevent irregular employment and abuse of migrant workers;
  • Supporting the organization of workers, including in sectors and industries vulnerable to forced labour; and
  • Better data and research will also contribute to the design of more effective programmes and policies.
For more information please contact: ILO Africa Communication team in Addis Ababa: Tel: + 251/115-444415 or + 251/911-218115